What is Eczema?
Eczema is a common dry skin condition that can be itchy and result in a scaly rash. The skin can tear if it is scratched, which can lead to further problems such as infection. Those who suffer with it develop dry patches as their skin does not produce enough natural oils to protect the outer layers. This means skin breaks down more easily which is why it becomes cracked or inflamed.
Atopic eczema is not contagious, so it cannot be passed on. Instead, eczema is usually inherited from family members. It tends to appear sporadically for most sufferers. It is a very common skin condition, with 20% of children and 8% of adults in the UK suffering from it.
The severity of this condition can vary from person to person; some people may only have small areas of dry skin that itches occasionally, while others may have widespread skin inflammation that itches constantly.
The most common symptoms of atopic eczema are when your skin becomes itchy, sore, cracked and dry.
Normally, you will have periods where your symptoms improve, which is usually followed by other periods where you have flare-up. You may suffer flare-ups 2 or 3 times each month.
Atopic eczema can occur all over your body, but it is particularly common on your hands (particularly fingers), the insides of your elbows or the backs of your knees. Children who suffer from this condition may have it on their face and scalp.
Both environmental and everyday products can cause eczema to be triggered. For instance, washing detergents or soaps can cause the skin to lose some of its natural oils, making it even drier.
Environmental factors such as pollen or cold weather can also dry out the skin further which will trigger a flare-up. For some women, hormones can play a part in making their dermatitis worse, especially during pregnancy.
Diet is also thought to be a factor in causing eczema to worsen. If you think your diet may be causing flare-ups, try and keep a food diary to take to your doctor as they may be able to see a pattern of food triggers to avoid. Do not cut out any food types until you have spoken to a doctor.
No tests are required to diagnose eczema. Your doctor will examine your skin and review your medical history to make a diagnosis. Patch testing may also be carried out to rule out any other skin conditions you may have, or identify any other problems that accompany the eczema.
If your child has a rash and you believe it may be caused by certain food they are eating, speak to your doctor about identifying food allergies.
Unfortunately, there is not a cure for eczema but there are a variety of treatments you can use to ease the symptoms. Products such as moisturisers, topical creams and ointments can be used to reduce swelling and redness.
A doctor may also recommend antihistamines. There are also ways you can treat eczema at home. Some tips for home treatments include:
- Avoid scratching areas of affected skin
- Put mittens on your baby to stop them scratching
- Change your detergents and soaps until you find one that does not irritate
- Avoid anything that may trigger it like heat or certain fabrics such as wool
The two most common forms of treatment are:
- Topical corticosteroids, which are creams and ointments to reduce redness and swelling
- Emollients, which are moisturisers that you should use every day to sop the skin becoming dry
Buy eczema cream online
Our online UK pharmacy stocks a range of products to help treat atopic eczema. We offer free consultations with an online doctor. They will review your consultation to be able to recommend the best treatment for you. All our treatments are shipped safely with free postage and packaging.
Eczema Frequently Asked Questions
Eczema is the name given to a number of different skin conditions. The different types are:
- Atopic eczema, which is the most common type. It is most common in children but also affects adults
- Discoid eczema, which occurs in circular patches on the surface of the skin
- Contact dermatitis, which occurs when the skin reacts to certain substances
- Varicose eczema, which affects the lower legs, resulting from poor blood flow
- Seborrhoeic eczema: discoloured, scaly patches on the nose, ears or scalp
- Dyshidrotic eczema, which are small blisters on the palms
No, this condition is not contagious.
If you have a family history of eczema, you are often more susceptible to getting it yourself. It tends to develop with other hereditary conditions, such as asthma or hay fever.
A doctor can diagnose it by examining your symptoms and reviewing your medical history. They may also patch test your skin to rule out any other conditions or problems.
Atopic eczema will affect 20% of British children, usually when they are a baby or toddler. More than half of the children who have it will have noticed a significant improvement by the time they are 11 years old. Most will see the condition clear completely in adulthood. However, some adults will continue to suffer from eczema, or see it appear as an adult for the first time.
At present, there are no specialists for the treatment of eczema; it is classed as a skin condition, which is treated by dermatologists. If your symptoms are severe, or if regular creams and treatments have not proved to be effective, your GP will refer you to a dermatologist for specialist treatment.
A dermatologist will review the treatments you currently use and make sure that they are being used properly.
They may also offer the following treatments:
- Topical corticosteroids
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors (ointments to suppress your immune system, such as tacrolimus)
- Wet wraps or bandages for your skin
- Alitretinoin, which is specifically for adults to treat severe eczema on their hands
- Immunosuppressants, which are tablets that suppress the immune system
- Phototherapy (ultraviolet light to prevent further inflammation)
- Psychological support, if required
Symmetrical symptoms are normally signs of atopic eczema or psoriasis. Asymmetrical symptoms usually indicate a fungal infection or tinea.
Yes, these symptoms are normal to have when suffering with eczema.
There are various external factors that can cause a flare-up. These include:
- Irritants in certain soaps and shampoos
- Environmental factors like damp or dry weather
- Allergens such as pollen, animal fur, moulds, peanuts, eggs or soya
- Hormonal changes in women, particularly during a period or in pregnancy
- Contact with certain fabrics
Your doctor will be able to help you identify triggers that cause flare-ups.
Atopic eczema is a chronic condition and there is currently no cure. However, there are various treatments available for sufferers to use, such as topical corticosteroids and creams, to help combat the symptoms.
Most children who suffer from this condition will find that their symptoms improve over time.
The best emollient is the one you use the most often, and it is vital you use it regularly.
It is easy to use different emollients around your own routine. For instance, you can apply a cream in the morning and allow it to soak in, while an ointment can be applied in the evening as it is greasier and takes longer for your skin to absorb.
There are different terminologies for different forms of treatment:
- Solutions are water-based or alcohol-based. They are thin and easy to apply, but do cause dryness in some people.
- Lotions are slightly thicker than solutions and can be used on affected areas that may be large or hairy.
- Creams are thicker than lotions and should be applied to smaller affected areas, particularly if the area is weeping.
- An ointment contains a large amount of oil, meaning they can be greasy. You should use ointment to treat dry and scaly skin.
- Gels are often used for hairy parts of the body, including your scalp. A mousse is also available to treat eczema on your scalp.
If your eczema does not go away after using normal remedies, a topical treatment may be prescribed instead.
Antihistamines can be used to combat the itching you may experience. If required, dermatologists may recommend other treatments like special bandages that will help the skin to heal.
Emollients should be applied as often as required; depending on the severity of your condition, this is normally two to four times a day.
You should make sure you moisturise your skin regularly, particularly after washing with soap. This will stop your skin from drying out. Moisturisers are best absorbed when applied after washing.
Topical corticosteroids should be applied as instructed by your doctor. This is normally one thick layer once or twice a day for between 7 and 10 days. Apply these treatments in the morning and/or evening, with at least a gap of 15 minutes between your regular emollient application.
Emollients can be applied as and when required. Always apply more emollient than you think you may need; it is common to underestimate how much moisturiser you will need.
When applying a steroid cream, measure it in Finger Tip Units (FTU). The amount of cream from the end of the finger to the fist crease should be enough to cover the area of skin on one hand.
If you have been prescribed an emollient, this can be applied as often as needed; keeping your skin moisturised is important in the treatment of eczema. If you forget to apply an emollient, just apply it as soon as possible.
If you forget to apply steroid creams, apply the correct dose as soon as you remember and then continue to apply it at your regular time(s). If it is almost time for your next application, skip the dose you missed and keep using it as normal.
As with all medicines, treatments for eczema come with the risk of side effects, although they are minimal in emollient creams.
Over the counter treatments may contain colours or perfumes that could irritate your skin. You may have an allergy to some of the ingredients within the products, also.
Skin medicines that contain steroids also come with a minimal risk of side effects when used for short periods of time. If used in the long term, or if short courses are repeated often, they can thin your skin and cause other reactions.
Always read the patient information leaflet thoroughly for a comprehensive list of adverse effects you may suffer. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Common symptoms of infected eczema include:
- Yellow discolourations on the flaked skin
- White or yellow spots on the affected skin
- Fluid or pus around the affected area
- Fever and other flu-like symptoms
- Swelling and soreness
Apply the emollient first and allow 15 minutes for it to absorb.
After this has been properly absorbed, steroid creams can be applied.
Topical corticosteroids vary depending on their strength. Mild corticosteroids can be bought at pharmacies, while stronger versions will require a prescription from a doctor.
Initially, your doctor will prescribe you the lowest dose possible to treat your symptoms.
Scarring is a common problem associated with this condition. This is because persistent itching can make the sufferer scratch their skin, which can cause it to break and weep.
To prevent scarring, try not to scratch your skin. Anti-itch creams like E45 are available to buy, which will reduce the sensation and make it easier to cope with. Dermatitis creams are available to keep your skin smooth and moisturised if you already have visible scars.
No particular food will get rid of eczema, although certain dietary changes can help with the condition.
Cutting down on lactose and switching to a vegetable milk alternative is a common suggestion for those who suffer from eczema symptoms. Some experts also suggest cutting out the likes of gluten, eggs, soy, nuts and sugar.
At the same time, try to incorporate more foods that have healthy fats, such as olive and coconut oil, grains and vegetables into your diet.
There are various natural remedies that sufferers of dermatitis can use to try and relieve their symptoms alongside their prescription medication.
Sufferers have particularly noted certain types of oils help their condition, including:
- Cod liver oil
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Sea spray
- Shea butter
- Witch hazel
Dermatitis refers to the inflammation of your skin, while eczema is a general term that applies to various types of dermatitis, although it does not apply to all of them.
You can have dermatitis without developing eczema, such as if you come into contact with stinging nettles.
Most eczema is not caused by allergies, but being around things you are allergic to may aggravate the condition.
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